NOTE: This article was originally published in October 2007 Coach & Grow R.I.C.H. newsletter, a free monthly publication featuring business-building strategies for professional coaches.

Do you remember being in school and how having a deadline for a final project or paper was key for it getting done? Whether you took the slow and steady approach or pulled a few all-nighters, you met the deadline. A set due date (and your desire to pass the course) ensured the task was completed.

There is tremendous power in time limits. I’ve been experiencing this with planning my wedding. Adam and I chose to have a relatively short engagement. Our big day is on 11/11/2007. Three months to make everything happen.

Although a short time frame can be hectic, I’m glad we chose this route. We are making decisions quickly, our actions are inspired and we’re getting things done.

The positive impact of a rapidly approaching deadline is amazing. I never would have believed that I could choose a wedding dress in 90 minutes or book our honeymoon after two nights of internet research.

Creating external deadlines is key for success in business and life. It’s one of the best ways to maximize your efficiency and get stuff done.

If you are like most people, you probably keep the commitments you make to other people much more rigorously than you do the promises you make to yourself.

For example, have you thought about engaging in a new initiative in your business, such as launching a website, developing a product or offering a training or teleclass, but you keep putting it off?

Do you find yourself thinking, “I’ll start that tomorrow, or next week or next month?”

One of the best remedies for this syndrome is creating a firm deadline that has external accountability. For example, you could:

  • Book a speaking engagement… even if you don’t have a complete presentation prepared.
  • Schedule a teleclass… even if you haven’t decided everything you will cover.
  • Arrange a meeting with a top executive… even if you have never done corporate work.
  • Offer to teach a class… even if the curriculum isn’t set.
  • Pre-sell a product… and then develop it.
  • Plan a radio interview… and then determine how you want to position yourself.
  • Run an advertisement offering a free E-Book as an incentive… and then write it.
  • Sign up to exhibit at a trade show… and then create the necessary materials.

What external deadline can you put on your business calendar?

Once you commit to a deadline, you will naturally take more action.

5 Keys for Meeting Deadlines

1. Prioritize
For example, if you want to offer a teleclass, but haven’t worked out all the details, start with the top priorities. Choose the day and time, determine the topic and title, write a short overview and begin publicizing it. Once those things are in place you can fine-tune the content, create handouts and practice your teleclass leading skills.

2. Keep It Simple
Let’s say you want to schedule a radio interview or sign up to exhibit at a tradeshow and you need some internet presence before then. Start with a blog or simple one page website. You can always expand it in the future.

3. Work with Others
Instead of offering a workshop on your own, co-lead it with someone else. If you are new to corporate coaching and you get that meeting booked with a top executive, partner with another coach who has the necessary experience.

4. Schedule Your Time
Let’s say you purchase an advertisement and offer a free E-Book as an incentive for people to respond. You have two weeks before the ad runs. Make a list of everything that you need to do and then block out specific time in your calendar to tackle your list.

5. Have No Fear
One of my clients was asked to fill-in for a speaker who canceled two days before an event. No Fear 24 Hours. Her immediate reaction was, “I’d love to do this, but I need more time!” After some coaching she realized that with focused effort, extra support from her assistant and leveraging work she had done in the past she could pull it off, and she did!

One of the great things about having your own business is the control you have over your time and schedule. And there are two sides to the coin, so if you find yourself continually putting an important project off until tomorrow, put a stake in the ground with some type of external commitment and deadline. It works!